Ah, the debate on Decision Review System in cricket. It was likely to rear at some point, but can you believe the circumstances? In game one of the ODI series in Perth, India looked set to inflict an upset victory over Australia at the WACA with Brainder Sran reducing Australia to 21 for 2. And when the next batsman George Bailey gloved the first delivery he faced down the leg side, things could have gone dicey for the home team.
The Indian appeal, although far from raucous, was turned down by English umpire Richard Kettleborough. Replays confirmed Bailey should have been out but, of course, there was no DRS on offer for India captain MS Dhoni because the Board and Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) refuses it.
Had Bailey been dismissed, Australia would have been reeling at 3-21 chasing the daunting 310 target. Instead, Bailey scored a hundred, engaged in a mammoth partnership with Steve Smith and Australia, rather predictably, easily chased down the supposed imposing total.
Bailey, with trademark Aussie cheek, couldn’t help himself having a dig at India’s DRS stance. "It would have been interesting to have a look at it on DRS, but we're not the team that doesn't want it," Bailey smirked after his match-turning innings.
Bailey’s chide, and Dhoni’s subsequent interrogation from the media post game, once again inevitably brought the nagging issue into the spotlight. Simply, DRS is always the elephant in the room when India plays. Every time there is a dubious decision, the spectre of DRS resurfaces. Debate rages on whether India should change their rigid stance, or whether the ICC should impose a blanket policy.
There is no doubt India’s refusal to use DRS in its current form came back to haunt them on this occasion, and will probably continue to in the future.
Dhoni’s stoic press conference was centred on a cheeky claim that his side may be at the wrong end of 50-50 decisions by the umpires. When he was asked by a journalist whether India was penalised on close calls because of the BCCI’s stance, Dhoni said he “may agree”. Perhaps Dhoni was being deflective and purposely shining the spotlight in a more sinister area, but the claims seemed far-fetched.
In this instance, one couldn’t really blame umpire Kettleborough. Caught off the glove down the leg side is arguably one of the harder decisions because it is difficult to distinguish if the ball struck the glove or thigh pad. Dhoni, himself, was fairly muted in the appeal, confirming he was not convinced the ball actually deflected off Bailey’s glove.
All Dhoni’s allegations did was fuel the tabloids in Australia, and unleash some expected bile from those dubious of cricket’s superpower.
Somewhat overshadowed were Dhoni’s more rational thoughts on the DRS, and whether it is flawed technology. “DRS should not be the umpires’ decision-justification system,” Dhoni said in the press conference. “It should be giving the right decision. Like in tennis, you don’t say the umpire called it out and half the ball has to pitch inside the line. It has to be plain and simple.”
This is where DRS should be tinkered. If the ball is hitting the stumps, shouldn’t it be given out? Why are there anomalies based on the umpire’s interpretation? The original decision should be irrelevant. Dhoni does make a valid point: the right decision should always be made. The priority should not be about making the umpires feel more vindicated.
But here's the catch: Is there any attempt being made by the ICC or BCCI to agree on a common ground? It makes no sense that some series are played with the aid of technology, while others aren’t. There needs to be a uniform approach. But of course the ICC, often criticised as a “toothless tiger”, is unlikely, or perhaps unable, to dictate India.
And of course, DRS has not absolved controversy as seen during the recent Adelaide Test against New Zealand when Australian tailender Nathan Lyon somehow survived a referral despite evidence the ball had deviated off his bat before being caught at slip. It was a match-changing moment for the game and series.
Recently, BCCI President Shashank Manohar said that unless DRS became "foolproof", India would continue refusing the technology. He said the BCCI's objection centered on the referral of leg before wicket decisions, not other dismissals.
There is no doubt there are elements wrong with DRS, and the ICC need to continually hone it to ensure the best decisions are made. Still, it is unlikely that the technology will ever be “foolproof”. The BCCI just have to accept that the technology will always be fallible.
Compounding matters right now, the ICC don’t seem particularly invested in finding ways to make better use of the technology and ensuring it is utilised properly.
Unfortunately, it’s unthinkable to imagine the squabbling cricket fraternity uniting over common ground on this subject.
Which means more of these incidents, and conjecture, are bound to continually arise.